Fallout: New Vegas review
Fuck George. He’s the gambler standing at the entrance to Nellis Air Force Base. Behind him: nothing but craters and bombed-out houses. The Boomers control this area, a community that protects itself by shelling anyone who gets in range, but I need to get in and George knows how to get past the bombs. He wants 200 bottlecaps for his services.
This is the world of Fallout: New Vegas. It’s harsh. Hell, I only have 200 caps because I killed the doctor who saved my life and scooped a bullet out my brain. So when George demands these caps for doing little more than standing on a path, while I’ve had to slam pool cues into the skulls of helpful medics, it upsets me.
I hand them over, as I can’t see any other way in. After a terrifying bolt through a barrage of bombs, following George’s instructions, I make it to the compound. The Boomers are surprisingly cool, if a bit overprotective. They agree to not shell me any more, which is nice of them. I find it difficult to blow up people I’ve met socially, too. I head back to George. It’s not just his opportunism that angers me. He offered to repay me double the amount of caps if I survived. I’m his dirty little gambling fix!
I grab my spiked knuckles and start whaling on him. Every punch makes me feel a little bit better. He runs off into Nellis and I run after him. The Boomers promised to leave me alone, but George? He’s fair game.
As is anything in his radius. Bombs are indiscriminate jerks. I only realise my huge mistake when he reels at one of my uppercuts and I explode a second later.
I should have known better. New Vegas might be cleaner than Fallout 3’s Washington wasteland, the Mojave desert having got off relatively lightly during the nuclear apocalypse, but it’s still a game about survival. Shot in the head, buried and presumed dead, you’re caught up in a revenge tale that turns into a battle for control of the region, with you in the Clint Eastwood role. Do you track down the man who put you in the ground, explore the desert, beat up some nearby gang members, or look for a faction to join?
What would Clint do? Or, in my game, an athletic, red-headed lady I named ‘Buck’. Lady Buck, I decided, was simply going to be an extension of me. If I found the people I was dealing with personally repugnant, I’d give them Wasteland justice. I plumbed for my usual mix of lockpicking and stealth skills, eventually regretting my Thief-centric approach to character creation. My advice: New Vegas is so skewed towards dialogue that, for the first run-through at least, you should put as much as you can in Speechcraft and Barter skills. Even the final bosses can be chatted into submission if your stats are high enough. You can’t lockpick a mouth. Oh, and you should probably avoid Hardcore mode for that first runthrough. It’s the triathlon of New Vegas, a gruelling slog designed to sap your strength as you play. It’s not for the ill-prepared.
Wandering the wasteland now, two years on from Fallout 3, I’m both happy and disappointed. I’ve long wanted more of the same from Bethesda, and this is the hand that New Vegas deals. But while it’s good to be back, the leap from one game to the other isn’t nearly as large as it should have been. New areas, characters and factions, but the same clunky inventory and character models. Two years to stay exactly where you were.
Fallout’s world of cracked asphalt and rolling deserts can still impress. Whacking the view distance up to max is chilling: futuro-’50s buildings poke into the air, a giant wireframe cross stands on a hill, and at night Vegas glows on the horizon.